A Gentleman and an Officer: A Military and Social History

A Gentleman and an Officer: A Military and Social History of James B. Griffin's Civil War In , James B Griffin left Edgefield, South Carolina and rode off to Virginia to take up duty with the Confederate Army in a style that befitted a Southern gentleman on a fine blooded horse, with two slaves to wait on him, two trunks, and his favorite hunting dog He was thirty five years old, a wealthy planter, and the owner of sixty one slaves when he joined Wade Hampton s elite Legion as a major of cavalry He left behind seven children, the eldest only twelve, and a wife who was eight and a half months pregnant As a field officer in a prestigious unit, the opportunities for fame and glory seemed limitless Griffin, however, performed no daring acts, nor did he inspire great loyalty in his men Instead, he unknowingly provided a unique and invaluable portrait of the Confederate officers who formed the core of Southern political, military, and business leadership In A Gentleman and an Officer, Judith N McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton have collected eighty of Griffin s letters written at the Virginia front, and during later postings on the South Carolina coast, to his wife Leila Burt Griffin Extraordinary in their breadth and volume, the letters encompass Griffin s entire Civil War service, detailing living conditions and military maneuvers, the jockeying for position among officers, and the different ways officers and enlisted men interacted during the Civil War Unlike the reminiscences and biographies of high ranking, well known Confederate officers or studies and edited collections of letters of members of the rank and file, this collection sheds light on the life of a middle officer a life turned upside down by extreme military hardship and complicated further by the continuing need for reassurance about personal valor and status common to men of the southern gentry In these letters, Griffin describes secret troop movements in various military actions such as the Hampton Legion s role in the Peninsula Campaign details that would certainly have been censored in recent wars Here he relates the march from Manassas to Fredricksburg, the siege of Yorktown and the retreat to Richmond, and the fighting at Eltham s landing and Seven Pines, where Griffin commanded the legion after Hampton was wounded Throughout, as Griffin recounts these most extraordinary of times, he illuminates the most ordinary of day to day issues One might expect to find a Confederate officer meditating on slavery, emancipation, or Lincoln Instead, we are confronted by simple humanity and simple concerns, from the weather to gossip Monumental historical events intruded on Griffin s life and sent him off to war, but his heartfelt considerations were about his family, his community, and his own personal pride Ultimately, Griffin s letters present the Civil War as the refinery, the ordeal by fire, that tested and verified or modified Southern upperclass valuesWith a fascinating combination of military and social history, A Gentleman and an Officer moves from the beginning of the Civil War at Fort Sumter through the end of the war and Reconstruction, vividly illustrating how the issues of the Civil War were at once devastatingly national and revealingly local The story of James B Griffin from Edgefield and his family and of his wife Leila who was of the Burt family of Edgefield I decend from the Burts of Edgefield so this book was interesting to me It tells of James s time in the war and of Leila s life on her own with eight children and a plantation to run This book contains 80 lettes James wrote to Leila These letters encompass Griffin s entire Civil War sevice a life turned upside down by extreme military hardship personal anxiety James Benj The story of James B Griffin from Edgefield and his family and of his wife Leila who was of the Burt family of Edgefield I decend from the Burts of Edgefield so this book was interesting to me It tells of James s time in the war and of Leila s life on her own with eight children and a plantation to run This book contains 80 lettes James wrote to Leila These letters encompass Griffin s entire Civil War sevice a life turned upside down by extreme military hardship personal anxiety James Benjamin Griffin 1825 1881 Eliza Leila Harwood Burt 1929 1922

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *